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Part 3: Miracles Under the Mango Tree

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HAITI—Imagine the surprise from a Fargo-Moorhead Eye Surgery Team when every morning in Haiti 300 people lined up in a hospital compound, waiting for care.

In one week, 1,200 people would be seen.

Some in surgery, others getting glasses or care for glaucoma.

Still, some who were blind, would walk for miles, and leave without the sight they'd hoped to have restored.

Part 4: Miracles Under the Mango Tree 

It is morning in Pignon; donkeys are at work, and villagers are moving about and word spreads quickly.

It is Carnival, giving Haiti a chance to celebrate at a time so many struggle daily to survive.

This is day four for the surgery team, they have already seen 500 patients, and as the trip nears its end, hundreds are still coming before sunrise, to get medical care.

Many will have cataracts removed, and will see after years of blindness, including 37-year old Lucy, mother of four, and 63-year-old Rosalie, who came from four hours away.

Some are singing hymns in creole, thankful for the team, but the team from Fargo Moorhead would also face major challenges and disappointments.

15-year-old Stephanie arrived, she's been blind for one year; her tearful uncle tells us, it came on suddenly.

Creole (Translator): "She wants to go back to school again."

They have traveled far to get there, and hope is all they have.

Creole is devastated when talking about the education his niece will never get, all because she is blind

Sadly, Fargo eye surgeon, Dr. Lance Bergstrom, can only do so much.

This last ditch effort to save what is left.

"Wish we would have found her 2-years-ago, but we don't think of 15-year olds having glaucoma," said Dr. Bergstrom.

The procedure is not expected to have any miracle results, but Stephanie's uncle, after the surgery is not one to give up, yet.

"Wish we could reverse time. It would be better," said Dr. Bergstrom.


One of the most gripping stories for the team came from 31-year-old Festnil.

Wearing his best shirt, the quiet, humble blind man walked for hours on dirt mountain paths, alone to get there.

He has no sight and his family has abandoned him, so he sleeps in a dirt garden every night.

A more indepth test tells us all; eye disease that has robbed Festnil of his sight.

"If he cannot see light, there is nothing we can do," said Dr. Allen.

But he is desperate, and asks the Fargo Moorhead team to test again..

"If we did surgery on him and it cannot help, we are denying others who need help, surgery. I feel terrible that we cannot help him," said Dr. Allen, "he wants us to try, but if you can't see the light, you are not going to see, it is rare to have no light perception, have surgery and see again,"

Festnil is disappointed, so is the team.

Festnil decides to leave to make the long journey back home, to nothing, riding this time, not walking.

A life of darkness.

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Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

(701) 241-5317